Taoke (Business)

Jardin Wong: On real estate innovation and taking on the family legacy

It’s already one thing to take on the family legacy, but what about building something entirely new from said legacy?

In the beginning, the Golden Bay name was associated with the seafood and culinary industries, starting out as a popular Chinese restaurant in the Pasay area. Now, however, it has become something much more. In recent years, it has grown to be a strong entrant in the real estate world led by the hands of the company’s COO — which, in Jardin Wong’s case, can be read as both “chief operating officer” or as the more humorous “child of owner.” Either way, the job comes with the heavy weight of responsibility and expectations. There is no easy way to lead the expansion of a family business into a new industry. 

Jardin Wong was first handed the reins of Golden Bay Land Holdings at the age of 26. Now at 31, Wong is seeing the rewards of his efforts. In 2020 alone, two company projects — Aspire Corporate Plaza and Garden City — earned themselves the internationally prestigious Opal Award, which celebrates the best architecture, interior design, and property development projects from all over the world. 

As part of this year’s Modern Tao Ke Campaign, the MTK 8 List features the achievements of brilliant Chinoy personalities who embody the values of a modern tao ke (read: Hokkien for entrepreneur). In an exclusive interview with CHiNOY TV, Jardin Wong reveals his insights and experiences in the country’s rapidly developing real estate industry. 


You have been handed the reins to Golden Bay Land Holdings as early as when you were 26. Having initially come from a family business background in the food industry, how were your experiences like adapting to a new company in the real estate industry?

Having been exposed to the seafood and agricultural trade as early as the age of six taught me a lot about the basic tenets of business and life. I’m blessed to have parents from different cultural backgrounds. My dad was technically a second-generation Chinese [immigrant] who came out of Hong Kong to search for broader opportunities while my mom grew up in the streets of Pandan, Catanduanes. Shaped by their early experiences and their desire to give me and my siblings a better life, they wasted no time in instilling in us the values of diligence, frugality, and honesty. These ideologies would later on form the basic foundations of how I operate as a business owner, leader, friend and everything in between.

By the time I was tasked to spearhead Golden Bay’s entry into the highly competitive real estate market, I was also already exposed to various activities outside business. I was active in various social clubs, political organizations, and was partially drawn to NGOs. All these experiences helped me adjust seamlessly into the challenges and intricacies of the real estate industry. Knowing that it wouldn’t be easy to make a mark in the building industry —  much less deliver a product that our customers, partners and shareholders would be proud of — I knew that I needed to adjust my management style and be more innovative in my approach in dealing with people. I also had to be more hands on and exert double the effort to catch up with industry practice and mechanisms.


Photography: Jervy Santiago


What have you discovered that you enjoy most about this role and field?

I’ve always said that I enjoy learning new things every day. I’m blessed to be in a highly progressive industry where invention and creation is encouraged. It’s this encompassing “pioneering” attitude that allows the industry to be at the forefront of solving complex and pressing issues that we all face today. Things like movement and mobility, gender equality, life expectancy, global warming, connectivity, and maximizing human-to-human or human-to-environment connections [have become] notably important in the last half-century.

Being able to participate as a contributor and collaborator in this broad and comprehensive industry is indeed a blessing. But knowing that you are making a tangible mark gives you that triumphant yet noble feeling. In principle, I’m fulfilling dual roles: that of a businessman in the financial aspect and a purveyor of an elevated way of life in the social, emotional, and cultural aspects.


What difficulties have you encountered within this role?

My penchant for being overly passionate led me to constantly question the limits of the building industry. I’ve always had a keen eye for design and have always been a firm believer of being progressive and innovative. When I was starting, I saw industry “limits” as sort of justifications for not being bold enough to introduce change — a clear excuse to not aspire for greater things. However, over time, I began to see these limits as part of industry realities, as sort of inevitabilities anchored on the ideals of engineering, physics, finance, the environment, and gender biases to name a few. 

Moral of the story: Innovation is good, but it takes time. It must undergo a definitive and rigid system of checks and balances before it can be accepted and utilized.


The Modern Tao Ke campaign celebrates the modern values of a tao ke. What ability do you value the most, and why?

Maximizing opportunities has long been the goal of contemporary entrepreneurs. For me, the shared values promoted by the Modern Tao Ke series fits perfectly with the way business people should operate in this day and age because it combines traditional insights with contemporary approaches that forms a unique vantage point. It also promotes tools that empower businessmen to think deeper and more broadly as they navigate the various stresses and challenges in today’s highly competitive but greatly connected world. But the most important thing is to also have a moral compass that makes sure that individuals can be well-rounded people, leaders, and entrepreneurs.


Photography: Jervy Santiago


What do the world’s current digital advancements mean to you as a modern tao ke?

The continued advancement of technology brings us closer to a seamless world and reinforces the belief that technology is here to make our lives easier. It is to be viewed as a partner or tool to enhance the living and sensual experience of daily life.


The past two years have been marked by the global pandemic. What have these two years meant to you, and what have you learned from them as a Chinoy entrepreneur?

It’s really been a humbling but eye-opening experience for me, both as a person and an entrepreneur. I can summarize my learnings in four simple lessons: Socially, we have to maintain and nurture meaningful relationships around us. Emotionally, being sensitive to other people’s needs, feelings, and priorities is still one of the most important things in life. Intellectually, the thirst for knowledge should be a recurring priority as we age. Faith-wise, the need to rely or believe in a higher purpose and being is very important. All of these four pillars all point out to the importance of building a well-rounded personality and way of life.


What do you see yourself doing in ten years?

My midterm plan involves pursuing an EMBA, getting married, and having my own family. [I’m also planning] continuous integration across different companies and divisions across our family businesses, as well as being more active in various public and private endeavors.

In the long term, around eight to ten years from now, I see myself raising two to three kids and instilling in them the same values of humility, dedication, and honesty while pursuing greater challenges for our companies — possibly an IPO or a regional expansion across Asia or Southeast Asia, at least. Aside from managing general economic interests, I can see myself transitioning to helm the philanthropic arm of our group.



What advice do you have for other fellow tao kes who wish to enter the real estate industry?

Dream, but make sure to follow it up with hard work and dedication because nothing comes easy. Actually, this basic principle applies not just in business but also to life in general. We always have to have a clear idea of where we want to be, then make it a point to really max out the effort to achieve it.  


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